PIKE, Jennifer

A Safe Place: A Journal For Women With Breast Cancer (Raincoast $16.95)

"I was furious," says Jennifer Pike on being told that she had breast cancer on April Fools' Day 1993.

"I remember driving out to work and thinking 'I can't have cancer, I won't have cancer!' because I'd been careful with my diet, didn't drink very much, didn't eat very much fat, all the things they tell you not to do," says Pike.

Shock and fear followed. "I was so frightened that I thought I was going to die," recalls Pike.

As a coping mechanism, Pike began writing down what was happening to her and collecting information for A Safe Place: A Journal For Women With Breast Cancer (Raincoast $16.95).

Nearly 18,600 new cases of breast cancer occurred in Canada in 1996 alone. It's estimated that there are two million women in North America living with breast cancer.

Pike's book is unique in that it combines her personal experience with interviews, practical advice and blank pages for the reader to write on. "There's nothing like it around," says Pike, who works at the UBC Bookstore.

For example, one of the less-known side effects of chemotherapy is that cologne and perfume can make the sensitive chemotherapy patient feel extremely nauseous.

Coping with hair loss is also difficult. "One day I was putting on my make up. As I was trying to put on mascara, I realized that I had more gap than I had eyelashes," recalls Pike.

Pike used a combination of western and alternative medicine. A doctor of Chinese medicine gave her some Chinese herbs which cooled down the level of fear. "I think that got me through mentally, I don't know about physically," says Pike, who has been in remission for over four years.

"It was a catharsis to write the book. I no longer feel the anger and the fear because I had to look at it all again. I'm sure there's things that I haven't faced but I think writing about it did change me."

[BCBW 1997] "Women"